Health Care

FBI seizes records of Overland Park pain doctor tied to Insys

Investigation of opioid maker Insys Therapeutics reaches Kansas

Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based company that produces an opioid spray, said in 2017 the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas sent it a subpoena as part of ongoing investigations. The company's leaders were indicted in December 2016.
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Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based company that produces an opioid spray, said in 2017 the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas sent it a subpoena as part of ongoing investigations. The company's leaders were indicted in December 2016.

The FBI last week seized patient records of Dr. Steven Simon, an Overland Park pain physician with ties to Insys Therapeutics, an opiate manufacturer at the center of a federal case that alleges prescriber kickbacks and insurance fraud.

“We had a lawful presence last Wednesday at Mid-America Physiatrists in Overland Park,” Bridget Patton, a spokeswoman for the bureau’s Kansas City branch, confirmed Wednesday.

Mid-America Physiatrists is the name of the medical group that practices at The Pain Management Institute at 8675 College Boulevard, Suite 150.

The owner of the pain clinic, Dr. Srinivas Nalamachu, said FBI agents showed up there with a search warrant for the medical records of every patient whom Simon had prescribed oral forms of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

“We are fully cooperating with the investigation and the evidence collection on Dr. Simon,” Nalamachu said.

Nalamachu said the search warrant was centered only on Simon, who was not in the office when it was executed. Simon did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Nalamachu said agents spent hours at the clinic collecting evidence.

Patton referred further questions about the FBI’s visit to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas. Jim Cross, a spokesman for that office, said he could neither confirm nor deny an investigation.

Six former Insys executives and managers were indicted on federal charges in December. The charges say the company used its speaker program to pay kickbacks to doctors for prescribing a new fentanyl spray, Subsys, which was approved only for breakthrough cancer pain.

The former executives are accused of pushing doctors to prescribe the drug to people who didn’t have cancer, then working with them to defraud insurers by making it appear the patients had cancer.

Those six have pleaded not guilty, but other Insys employees and physicians the company worked with have pleaded guilty to related charges.

The most recent quarterly report filed by Arizona-based Insys said investigations were ongoing and the company had received subpoenas from U.S. attorney’s offices in several states, including Kansas, for information on doctors the company has interacted with in those states.

Simon was the eighth-highest-paid Subsys speaker nationally from August 2013 to December 2015, taking in more than $200,000 in meals, speaking fees and related travel expenses, according to a ProPublica database. He also trained other speakers for Insys. He was the top-paid Kansas doctor in the Subsys speaking program and the state’s top prescriber of the drug within the Medicare Part D program during those years, according to ProPublica.

The Star examined Simon’s relationship with Insys in a story last month after examining his paid speaking for an opioid-induced constipation drug, Movantik, in a story in April.

When interviewed last month, Simon said he had not seen or participated in any of the illegal activities alleged in the Insys indictments.

Nalamachu said he bought the practice from Simon last year and kept Simon on as a practitioner as part of the terms of the sale. He said the things the FBI was interested in happened before he took over in March 2016 and barred Simon and the nurse practitioners from prescribing fast-acting oral or nasal fentanyl products like Subsys.

“This is all old stuff that happened before I bought the clinic,” Nalamachu said.

Andy Marso: 816-234-4055, @andymarso

Some people might think prescription opioids are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs, but the truth is they carry serious risks and side effects. Talk with your doctor about your concerns and make informed decisions about pain management together.

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